Red Sox

Dombrowski out of touch on Ohtani recruitment process

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Dombrowski out of touch on Ohtani recruitment process

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When it comes to the Shohei Ohtani pursuit, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski sounds out of touch.

Dombrowski said at the winter meetings Tuesday he was surprised that the Red Sox did not become a finalist to meet with Ohtani, after all 30 teams had an opportunity to submit a presentation to convince Ohtani to then have a face to face meeting. The Sox were not granted a face to face meeting, and he signed with the Angels.

“It was something the organization worked on for a long time and a couple of people that really focused on it for years,” Dombrowski said. “Our presentation, we made a very thorough presentation, a very strong presentation, one that I looked at, I didn’t do the work myself, but people showed me. I thought the presentation was outstanding. So we were very invested.”

He didn't do the work himself? Delegation is one thing (and a good thing). But Dombrowski misread the field here.

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No East Coast team was a finalist. There likely was nothing the Red Sox could have done to convince Ohtani to gain a meeting. That's an important point here.

But as a matter of principle, as a vehicle for understanding Dombrowski's savvy and how it compares to his peers, it may be telling that Dombrowski thought he didn't have time to put together the Ohtani presentation — and that he thought all other GMs felt the same way.

“Well, I don't think that the time consumption of putting together that presentation, I mean, we had those guys spend over a couple weeks on that,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn't think that any general manager would've put that together. In fact, I don't think anyone could. It was just way, way too much time spent on only that situation. Now, if we were making a presentation personally, I would've been there. 

"But to send a presentation — that's what they wanted; they wanted the presentation sent to them. Now, I was aware of what was in there and was shown there, but it would be way too much work for, I think, any general manager. In fact, I know there's not a general manager in the game that put that presentation together.”

Dombrowski is incorrect. 

One finalist team's GM told NBC Sports Boston they worked personally on their presentation and essay and felt the quality of the presentation, which was collaborative, helped land them the meeting, separating them from the pack. Another finalist team had their GM directly help put it together as well, and all of them may have.

But it wasn't just finalist teams that had GMs involved.

"We'd be emailing the presentation and they'd send it to me at 10 o'clock at night. I'd work on it for a couple hours and I'd send them comments at midnight," Reds general manager Dick Williams said, via MLB.com. "As it got closer and we knew we were going to have to send something, we really ramped it up.”

The people Dombrowski delegated the work to are highly respected and diligent. Among them, Allard Baird is a former general manager, Jared Banner is a future general manager. They followed Ohtani incredibly closely, devoting great time and effort well before any presentation was created. 

But why wouldn’t Dombrowski want to add to the man power of that great team, to prioritize this project himself once it came time to send the presentation? Leadership is about delegation, and it's also about knowing the right time to push full steam ahead with all available resources.

The Reds, of course, were not a finalist either, meeting the same fate as the Red Sox.

"We tried a few things. Didn't work," Williams said. "Those of us close to it that worked on it convinced ourselves that we had a very good case. We really wanted him to hear it and feel the same way we did."

But it was worth it.

The pursuit of Ohtani was an effort to convince a pitcher who could have been worth $200 million on the open market to sign with a club for roughly one tenth of that. Ohtani is an incredible bargain and rare talent that deserved every bit of focus and energy from the top of the organization.

As one GM put it recently regarding Ohtani, “It starts at the top.”

"We're not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in his podcast in late November. "We'll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared.

"To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along. Because this is what this might be.”

What GM would have time for that?

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Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

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Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may not be looking closely at the Yankees' and Astros' rosters, but chairman Tom Werner appears to have peeked.

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“Sure there’s pressure,” Werner said at Winter Weekend when asked about the Yankees’ pick-up of Giancarlo Stanton and the Astros’ addition of Gerrit Cole.  “Houston was formidable last year. I thought we played them competitively in Fenway Park. They’ve obviously improved. But if we have the kind of performances I expect from some of our players this year — obviously we’re looking for some more improvement from certain players. Hopefully, a healthy David Price will be very important to that. 

"I think we have an excellent team, but anything can happen in a short series. The Yankees have improved, there’s no question about it. They have a deep bullpen and a great offense. But I like our chances.”

At the Boston baseball writers awards dinner on Thursday, Sox president Sam Kennedy cracked a joke about Dombrowski presenting Yankees general manager Brian Cashman with an Apple Watch as a gift. The rivalry perked up in 2017.

“I’m sure that when Judge and Stanton come to Fenway Park this year, it’ll be electric,” Werner said.

It’s not exactly an offseason punch-for-punch dynamic with the Sox and Yankees, though, as it was circa 2003-04.

“Not specifically,” Werner said of countering Stanton. “It’s important for us to be competitive with them, but we’re not trying to play chess with them.”

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

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Red Sox notes: Yawkey Way cannot be named for living person

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Yawkey Way will not become David Ortiz Way, for those who may have been holding out hope for the street to be renamed after him, or any other recent star.

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“We’ve talked about several different names,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said on Friday evening at Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “There’s been talk about the possibility of returning to what the original name was, which was Jersey Street. It’s been made clear in our research and due diligence that you can’t currently petition for a living person when there’s other property owners on the street. There’s a provision that allows you to petition for a name of a living person if there aren’t other property abbuters on the street. So living person is out of the question. So we’ve had a few different ideas, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Kennedy said the Sox are in conversations with the city and neighboring property owners on Yawkey Way about renaming the street. 

“We have to have a sponsor of our petition, so we’re engaged in those discussions right now and would anticipate a petition being filed,” Kennedy said. “The mayor has been terrific and his staff understand our desire to formally petition, but we’ve got to get a resolution on a few logistical items — like a name, for one — that we’re going to formally petition for.”

A next step could come within a couple weeks, although Kennedy wasn’t firm about that timeline.

“But I’ve said that before, and it’s just a lot of behind the scenes steps that you have to take getting formal approvals from property owners and elected officials,” Kennedy said. “The club can petition for the name and then ultimately as John Henry said back in August, [it’s] a public process. … it’s our decision to request a name.”

• More netting is coming to Fenway to protect fans from batted balls and such.

“Before 2016, we expanded to the inside wall of the dugouts and we’re going to beyond that in 2018,” Kennedy said. “All the way down to about Field Box 79 down the left field line, and then all the way down to almost canvas alley in the Field Box 9 area. So we’re still finalizing the exact dimensions, but it will be a dramatic expansion of our netting … beyond the dugout down the third base line and the first base line.”

  • Sox chairman Tom Werner supports pace of play initiatives, and said he’s heard from Red Sox players who support it as well — even though the players union decided to shoot down a proposal from the league, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. MLB can unilaterally make changes but ideally, the union and league would come to an agreement together.
     

“As you know the commissioner is having ongoing talks with Tony Clark and the union,” Werner said. “I think it’s pretty clear that there’s too much dead time in the game. And as I’ve said, it’s really not about pace of play but like trying to have less dead time. Last year the average game, the time was higher than it’s ever been in history. And I think we have talked about some common sense ideas. We’re not the only league as you know who is looking at dead time. 

“But just for an example, I think that to have the managers or the catchers go up, or the second baseman just be able to talk to the pitcher whenever they want, we should address that. So we’ve addressed a pitch clock in the minor leagues. I think it’s working. But I’m hopeful certainly that the union and owners will come together on this. Because I think it’s something that the fans are expecting.”

  • Sox ticket sales are not doing quite as well as they were a year ago, Kennedy said. 
     

"We’re very healthy and humbled by the fan support,” Kennedy said. “We sold [out Winter Weekend] faster than ever before, about three weeks. There will be between 6,000 and 7,000 people here, which is really a testament to Red Sox fans. You’ve got an unbelievable sports market as we all know with the Patriots and what they’re doing, the Bruins and Celtics at the top of their games. 

“We’ve got people buying tickets [for games] at a pace consistent with 2015 and 2016. We are slightly down from last year, I think there was a big bump from Chris Sale, understandably, so about 6 percent down from last year, which is understandable given it’s been a very slow moving offseason in terms of baseball news. But we continue to be grateful and humbled by the support we get.”

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